August 30, 2014

Respite care cut dropped after complaints

Governor Branstad this week shelved a cost-saving idea after his office received hundreds of complaints about the proposal approved by the legislature. The proposal would’ve limited the use of so-called “respite care” — a state subsidized assistance program which gives a break to people who care for disabled loved ones in their home.

The Department of Human Services had proposed limiting respite care use to 48 hours per month. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says legislators learned the change would’ve eliminated the ability of some families to continue providing care in their home.

For instance, some parents with severely disabled children rely on respite care nearly every day so they can run errands or attend to their other children’s needs. “In that situation, respite is used as assistance to the caregiver,” Heaton said. He says many lawmakers believed respite care was only being used by family caregivers when they needed a one or two day break.

Parents who regularly use the program testified at a public hearing on the rule change and sent emails. “It was all a misunderstanding. We did not know respite was being used in this way,” Heaton said. “I feel so good about the governor not going through with the rule.” Heaton is chair of the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. He took part in the public hearing about the proposed rule change.

“It was obvious we were going to have to have something happen,” Heaton said. “Of course, it turned into a kind of a political event. There were a lot of words thrown around. I was just hoping we could, you know, sit down and just maybe think this wasn’t the best thing to do.” The respite care program is provided under Medicaid – which currently spends around $25 million a year on the service.

State Medicaid Director Jennifer Vermeer said last month the proposed change would’ve saved the state nearly $2.5 million.